Arizona is home to the jaw-dropping Grand Canyon, crazy desert wildlife, and very hot summers.
Most people know that Arizona was a treasure trove of silver, ores, and gold just waiting to be found by the right lucky prospector, but it turns out, those weren’t the only options. Prospector Adolph Cannon, exploring Arizona in the twentieth century, was after a treasure of a different kind. He wasn’t after gold or silver, but instead… diamonds. Finding diamonds in Arizona certainly wasn’t the norm, but Cannon had a secret — the Meteor Crater. When the huge asteroid that created the Meteor Crater fell to earth, the incredible pressure was enough to create these valuable stones. Truthfully, many of them were so minuscule you wouldn’t even be able to spot them with the naked eye. This didn’t stop Cannon, though, who hypothesized that larger chunks of falling rock with more graphite in them, could have created larger diamonds. So, he spent his life living in nearby Canyon Diablo and collecting meteorites from the crater. Cannon never spoke or boasted of his search or his discoveries, but the townspeople noticed that he was never hard up for funds. Unfortunately, no one kept too close of tabs on him, and when he died in 1928, it was ten years before anyone discovered his skeleton. It is believed that there are various stashes of incredible value hidden all around the area. One weary traveler reportedly wandered into town with a handful of raw diamonds he had happened upon. That, and a gunshot wound from the scuffle with his partner who now lay dead. If you’re visiting this area, keep your eyes peeled and you never know what you might stumble upon.
It would seem that the Canyon Diablo area is rife with treasure just waiting to be found. While people flocked to this area to search for Cannon’s diamonds, just as many people came looking for another, different stash. By 1889, the Atlantic and Pacific Railroad was well established through Arizona. On the fateful day of March 21st, four bandits were waiting for the train when it stopped at the Canyon Diablo Station. They ambushed the train, took everything it’s safe had to offer — supposedly a value of $150,000 made up of cash, gold, and jewelry — and fled. They reportedly initially ran south, but then looped back, bound for Utah. Their escape plan failed them, and they all ended up in Yuma Territorial Prison. Curiously, though, when the men were captured, they didn’t have the loot with them. Did the men eventually get released from prison and return for their hidden treasure? Or is it still hidden near the canyon, just waiting to be found? No one is quite sure.
The tale of this treasure isn’t really one of discovery, but instead of opportunity. Today, Cerro Colorado, a town southwest of Tucson, is a ghost town, but between the 1870’s and the 1910’s, it was a booming mining town. The “Father of Arizona,” Charles Poston was the man who came to capitalize on all of the silver ore. His operations were going well for a while, but the Civil War changed that. Soldiers protecting Arizona were called away to the war, opening the doors for Indian attacks and plundering laborers. Worse, though, than these threats, was the fact that Poston’s men, even his foreman, Juanito, were stealing from him. Juanito had reportedly smuggled away around $70,000 worth of silver and stashed it nearby. Juanito was executed as an example, but the other workers continued to steal, eventually leaving the operation and spreading the word of Juanito’s hidden stash. Eventually, the remaining miners revolted, killing Poston. They searched all over for Juanito’s silver, but it was never found.
This legend tells the story of one mans incredible luck, followed by some bad luck as well. “Long Tom” Watson was a prospector who had been searching the Grand Canyon for riches for some time. One night, as he was using some paper to start a fire, he noticed that the letter he was about to burn was unopened. The legend doesn’t explain how Watson came to be in the possession of this letter that wasn’t intended for him, but regardless, he chose to open it before throwing it in the fire. To his absolute surprise, what he discovered was a letter from one man to his brother about some gold that he had discovered. He was forced to hide his find after noticing that he was being trailed by two men. Though he did this successfully, the men caught up to him and shot him anyway. He wouldn’t make it, but he hoped that his brother would be able to go back to the hiding spot — behind a waterfall — and reclaim the treasure. Hopeful, Watson followed the map that had been included in the letter, and to his surprise, the fortune was there! Unfortunately, this is where his luck took a turn. Coming out from behind the waterfall with the gold, Watson tumbled across some wet rocks, breaking his leg, hitting his head, and even worse, dropping the gold into the water. He escaped with the help of a passerby, but could never relocate the waterfall.
It wasn’t only prospectors who came to Arizona in search of their respective fortunes. Legend has it that Jesuit priests who came to Arizona in the eighteenth century mined precious metals for profit too. To help in their mines, they reportedly employed the Indian tribes of the area, like the Opata and Papago, who they ultimately wished to convert to Christianity. One horrifying story, though, makes it quite clear that the priests weren’t making much progress in converting the natives. Some of the Indian workers conducted their ceremonies in a secret storeroom where they had collected a huge amount of silver ore. These ceremonies were far from Christian, and the Jesuit Priests were no less than horrified when they one day discovered a kidnapped Indian princess strapped to a pile of silver ore in this secret room. She was set to be sacrificed for declining to marry the tribe’s chief. The priests tried to save the girl, but they were too late, and so, instead, they sealed off the whole mine — silver, princess, and all. The Jesuits were gone by 1767, but their tombs likely still remain, just waiting to be discovered by a lucky adventurer.
Have you gone out searching for any of these treasures? Or perhaps you know of a better stash, just waiting to be found. Tell us about it in the comments below!